With elections underway for the RCN Congress Agenda Committee, Maureen Dolan encourages fellow activists to consider standing for this important role
Are you keen to influence the national nursing debate? To shape the direction of the RCN? To give a voice to fellow members? If so, there could be a role for you on the RCN Congress Agenda Committee.
As anyone who has been will testify, Congress is massive. Thousands attend, hundreds speak at the podium and the nation’s media follow events avidly. Congress matters. And the Agenda Committee is the cog that turns the wheel.
Maureen Dolan has served two terms on the committee and will stand down this year. She says anyone interested in becoming more involved in the RCN should give serious thought to seeking election. “You see Congress from so many different angles when you’re on the Agenda Committee,” she says.
Maureen has been active in the College for many years. A former vice chair of the RCN Northern Ireland board, she also served as secretary of the Southern branch and on the committee of the RCN Perioperative Forum.
After 15 years as a surgical nurse, she recently changed direction and now works in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust’s mental health directorate offering physical health expertise. “It’s a new post and a big change for me,” she says. “And I love it.”
What I had was my passion – for the RCN and members. And if you’re passionate, you don’t need a script
Maureen was first elected to the Agenda Committee four years ago after a conversation with other committee members who were about to stand down.
The deadline for nominations was approaching and she admits she was not well prepared. “I was sort of talked into it. But I didn’t need much persuasion.”
She adds: “What I had was my passion – for the RCN and members. And if you’re passionate, you don’t need a script.”
Giving members a voice
Although the focus of its work is that single week in spring, the Agenda Committee convenes throughout the year. As well as selecting agenda items for the next event, the committee meets to consider which debates at the last Congress went well and proved popular, which were picked up by the media and where improvements might be made.
But Maureen is keen to emphasise that it is always the membership that shapes Congress. “We just facilitate, giving members a voice, a podium to share their concerns and what they want done about them.”
We've had so many fantastic and memorable debates
That said, the Agenda Committee is influential and those who are elected to it tend to have strong opinions, Maureen says. But it’s also essential they respect the views of others and keep in mind their remit. “We’re all there for the same reason,” she says. “To make Congress brilliant.”
Although her term of office is ending, Maureen’s passion for Congress remains. “We’ve had so many fantastic and memorable debates. But what’s always stood out for me is when someone we’ve encouraged gets up to speak for the first time. Then they come back to the Agenda Committee and say, ‘I wouldn’t have done that without your support’.
“And that’s the strongest thing I’ve ever heard.”